Increased LTPD jurisdictional duties at the heart of Murphy decision

Increased LTPD jurisdictional duties at the heart of Murphy decision
(Native News Today) A Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation could mean a population of over 900,000 for the Lighthorse Tribal Police Department to patrol.


Jason Salsman/Multimedia Producer

Hawkins discusses impact to law enforcement

OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — Back in August when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously decided its ruling in the Murphy v. Royal case, citing that Congress had never disestablished the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation, it was widely seen as a victory for MCN.

MCN Principal Chief James Floyd called the decision, ‘a complete and unqualified victory for not only the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, but all of Indian Country,’ in an email statement to Mvskoke Media on Aug. 10.

But what does this decision look like if it is upheld and put into action? What does it mean for law enforcement and its jurisdictional responsibilities, specifically for the MCN Lighthorse Tribal Police Department?

“As (MCN Attorney General) Kevin Dellinger said in the meeting just the other night, law enforcement is like the heart of this decision that’s going to be coming,” LTPD Chief Robert Hawkins said.

According to Hawkins, there has been discussion and conversations in cabinet meetings that have involved what the case means going forward. According to Hawkins, questions have centered on law enforcement capabilities.

“We have plans of action in place,” he said. “We’ve started obtaining cross commissions with all the jurisdictional agencies within our tribal boundaries.”

Hawkins said there are currently 31 cross commissions, with 14 more that they are working to obtain. The next step is to meet with the police chiefs and sheriffs from the respective agencies to “get on the same page.”

He also mentioned the possibility of having to increase personnel and facilities, indicating that currently they are understaffed for such a transition.

“We are going to need the man power,” Hawkins said. “Right now we have 47 sworn (officers), but to have a sufficiently staffed department for a reservation we’re going to be looking at a good 200 to 250 more officers.”

He said the population increase for patrol would be a major factor. Considering the major metropolitan area of Tulsa lying within the reservation, Hawkins estimated the call increase could be approximately 968,000 people.

“If you look at other reservations throughout the country, they have major cities that sit along their borders,” he said. “We would be the first to have a major metropolitan area sitting right in the middle of it.”

Hawkins said the importance of working together in the beginning stages of a possible transition is the main focus of his department and the tribe as a whole, which has also been echoed by Dellinger.

“With us being commissioned with these other agencies it will help us,” Hawkins said. “There’s a lot that’s going to go with this. It’s going to be a matter of educating the officers from other agencies as to how criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country is going to work.”

Hawkins wants Muscogee (Creek) citizens to know that they are aware, they are planning and are working towards making adjustments to fit any changes that may be coming their way.

“We’re going to maintain our status as providing the best services to our citizens, providing the resources we have to help out other agencies and just want everybody to understand that we’re going to take care of our people,” he said. “Now it’s going to be on a much larger scale, but we are dedicated to our services, dedicated to our jobs and dedicated to the people out there.”

Mvskoke Media will follow any developments in the Murphy v. Royal case.

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